28 March, 2008

Chuck Lorre, showrunner, on the strike

Chuck Lorre is currently involved in Two and a Half Men and The Big Bang Theory and co-writes an amazing number of quality scripts for a very busy showrunner. In my previews of The Big Bang Theory I have wandered how he can sustain the premise beyond a season. But I now remember saying that about Two and a Half Men and it still very funny and fresh several years later. Just because I don't know how to do it, it doesn't mean it can't be done.

Anyhoo, at the end of each show he writes a little message for viewers to read if they pause their VCR/DVD/Tivo. They are archived here. This was his pre-strike card:


And I was very curious what his first post-strike card would say:

"About a year ago I received a phone call from a mid-level CBS exec who began the conversation by saying he wanted to give me a head's up. Having been in this business a while I knew that "head's up" is code for, "we've decided to screw you, but didn't want you to hear about it from your agent... or urologist."

In this case the head's up was that CBS was going to stream several episodes of Two and a Half Men on their web site. When I asked how they intended to pay the writers, actors and directors of those episodes, I was told that the streaming was considered "promotional," therefore no residuals would be forthcoming. (He didn't really use the word "forthcoming," I just think it's better story-telling if the bad guy is articulate.)

I took a moment to let his words sink in, to let the moment play out, if you will. Then, for no reason whatsoever, I switched to a phony southern accent and asked, "Is there paid advertisin' on that ol' internet site you fellas are runnin'?" The exec was completely thrown off-balance by the utterly surreal quality of my good ol' boy act and blurted out, "Yes! I'm sorry! I know it's wrong, don't shoot me, I'm just the messenger!" (Actually, all he said was "yes," but once again I think good story-telling demands a panicked confession from the running dog of evil corporate bullies.)

Anyhoo, this was the first time I knew a brutal strike was coming -- if you don't count the day, four and a half years ago, when I sat in Patric Verrone's backyard and listened to him lay out his plan to bring justice and fair play to show business."

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